Kai Hattendorf, UFI MD/CEO.

It’s that time of year when many of you will be booking your trips to the upcoming UFI Global Congress. The UFI team is busy getting ready for what is sure to be another memorable meeting. (If you still need to register, just click here). After Shanghai in 2016 and Johannesburg in 2017, our industry’s global annual gathering will take place in St. Petersburg (Russia). It’s been a memorable year for our industry, so there are many issues to discuss – from M&A to digital transformation, and from changing business models to venue developments.

UFI last held the Global Congress in Russia in 2005 in Moscow. This time, we’re returning to a very different Russian market. Despite numerous political changes and challenges over the past 13 years, the industry has evolved, and the country’s leading organisers today are an equal mix of national and international companies. At the same time, we have seen an expansion of available venue space, notably with the new ExpoForum venue in St. Petersburg where the Congress is being hosted.

Our latest Global Barometer data from this summer shows that the Russian market has stabilised, with the vast majority expecting steady operating results in 2018 and growing turnover in the first half of 2019. More so than in other markets and regions, the industry cites economic developments at home as the most important business issue for the future. Also, competition issues are ranked above the global average – both from within the exhibition industry and from other media. Growing visitor numbers at shows in 2016 and 2017 also point to a recovery.

The upcoming “2017 Euro Fair Statistics” report reveals that in 2017, 139 accredited exhibitions were held in 13 cities. This amounts to 930,000 sqm of net rented space occupied by more than 43,000 direct exhibitors. More than 2.6 million visitors were registered. Of course, one defining theme of 2018 in our industry is the acceleration and size of mergers and acquisitions, with the Informa/UBM deal at the top. Just this week, as I was preparing this column, new announcements came in from the
US, the UK, Mexico, South East Asia, the UAE, and Russia as well.

In addition, global investments into venue space are moving ahead – only last week in India, I witnessed the groundbreaking expansion of India Expo Mart in Greater Noida, and the construction site at Pragati Maidan in Delhi. Building of the mega venue in Shenzhen, China, is also progressing, while construction in Las Vegas in the US has begun. Meanwhile, in Europe, many German Messes are adding new halls to their venues as well. This all shows how attractive we are as an industry, providing face-to-face business opportunities around the world.

Yet, at the same time, the discussion around the future of Switzerland-based MCH Group also shows just how complex relationships in our industry can be and that interests of shareholders and stakeholders are not always aligned. As you can see, there is a lot to talk about in a few weeks. We’re doing our best to bring the right voices to the stage on these matters, so that you can take home valuable insights to drive your business forward.

See you at the Congress!